I recently wrote a very personal blog post about how I was never taught to express my emotions as a kid. It resonated deeply with lots of people, especially parents and landed me an interview on ABC Radio.
I was inspired to share my story up after watching the SBS doco series “See What You Made Me Do” about domestic violence in Australia. I thought I knew the stats and how bad it was, but hearing the personal stories, it really brought it home. I felt powerless to know how I could effect change with such a deep systemic problem.
However one thing I noticed was that most of the male perpetrators interviewed said they were never taught how to express their feelings growing up and I’ve heard that again and again over the years. I watched grown men break down crying, because they’ve finally been able to let go of the toxic masculinity message that’s being drummed into them from an early age.
I don’t want today’s boys to grow up like that. Not on my watch.
I may not be able to fix the damage already done, but I can help today’s kids to be more in touch with their emotions and thus be kinder on themselves and the people around them.
My philosophy is simple
While I don’t have a psychology or education background, I always come from the point of view of ‘Knowing what I know now, what would I go back and tell my 8 year old self?’. Everything I do is based on that premise and for hundreds of parents and child mental health professionals I talk to, they know the value of that too.
I also want my work to be accessible to people from all walks of life, so I don’t use terminology like ’emotional regulation’, ’emotional intelligence’ or ‘zones of regulation’, as I leave that to the professionals. I keep it simple and real.
So below you’ll find 5 of my resources to help parents talk to their kids about emotions and feelings, especially boys and one from Children’s Book Blogger Megan Daley with a list of books to help dispel the toxic masculinity message that boys often are exposed to.
Talking to boys about anger
How to have an important conversation with your child about anger. (This is what I’d go back to tell my younger self to help him understand and express his anger.)
Tell them it’s Ok to be angry. It’s a natural emotion, it’s part of being human. You’re not a bad person for being angry, we all get angry.
Ask them to notice what it feels like to be angry. How does your body feel? Are you hot or cold? Can you think properly? Is there lots of wild energy running around your body? I know when I get angry I get really hot and I can’t think properly.
Then talk about safe ways they can release the energy. There are lots out there, but I suggest in my work, either running around like a chicken or deep breathing for a few minutes. You can do it with them if you like.
Once the initial energy has passed, then get them to talk about what has made them angry. Because the reason is still there, but now they can think clearer so they can explain themselves better. They’ll feel more in control.
Obviously every family situation is different, but the earlier you can empower your kids to notice when they start to feel angry, the more self aware they’ll be and they’ll be more in control over how they respond. The key here, is your time and patience in helping them to do this. You’re their guide and support.
Or simply watch this video with them. It’s from my Inspiring Kids Program
(If there are any bigger anger issues, then it’s important to seen professional help)
A guide book for starting conversations about feelings
This book has been a game changer for many parents, helping them open up important conversations with their kids. It provides a safe space for them to know that it’s important to talk about their feelings and what’s worrying them.
By opening up this dialogue he no longer has separation anxiety, his outbursts are less and he has tools to deal with his anger. – Melissa
“There is a little man in my life with some sensory issues and on the spectrum, this ‘blue book’ has become a constant source of inspiration for him, helping him to cope and manage every situation, when anxiety strikes at such a tender age, this very important ‘blue book’ has been able to facilitate an answer and solutions for him to deconstruct his emotions and move on with the rest of his day. You are empowering tender little people. So important.” – Julie“One of the best books I have read about feelings and it opened up some wonderful conversations between myself and my son” – Jnr Bookworms
Inspiring Kids online video series
Module 3 of my Inspiring Kids program helps kids 5 to 11:
- Notice when their emotions and feelings arise
- Make friends with their emotions and feelings
- Have strategies on what to do when they feel angry or anxious
- Know how important it is to talk to someone about how they’re feeling
- Discover the power of gratitude
Each video comes with an optional fun activity to help reinforce what I’m saying. It can be done in under 2 hours or be self paced.
FREE Downloadable PDF conversation starter guide.
You can download this FREE conversation starter guide PDF direct to your phone and have it handy for those awkward moments! However the main point here is that I’ve added a guide to having deeper conversations with your kids.
These are suggestions that parents and child mental experts have shared with me over the years.
As part of my Being You is Enough Primary School Presentations, I reinforce to the kids how important it is to talk to someone about how their feeling. It’s a message I repeat throughout the presentation, and especially stress to boys.
We also have lots of fun talking about resilience, kindness, it’s ok to be different and the power of daydreaming and imagination.
More books: 15 BOOKS ALL BOYS SHOULD READ BEFORE AGE TEN
This is a list complied by amazing librarian and popular Children’s book blogger, Megan Daley and Lana Hallowes. To quote Lana from the article, “Thankfully there are some FANATSTIC children’s books out there which may or may not address toxic masculinity directly, but all help to gently guide our boys* to grow from brilliant boys into the magnificent men we need in our world.”
Click the pic above check out the books.
Let these books and resources be a starting point for bigger and ongoing conversations with your boys. There’s a long way to go until we get rid of toxic masculinity, but if we focus on what we can do right here and now, it’s simply letting kids (and importantly boys) know it’s important to talk about their feelings.
I’d love to know what other resources you’ve found to be effective. Leave a message below.